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I recently booked to attend a 'Black Tie and Posh Frocks' Party at Holiday Inn Kensington Forum through a multi-activity group I am a member of. This review is of my experience staying at the hotel, and dining in their function rooms.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The hotel is based at 97 Cromwell Road which is just a few minutes walk from Gloucester Road tube station (Piccadilly, Circle & District lines). Strangely however the main entrance is actually on Courtfield Road which runs parallel. Basically turn right out of the tube, right again and you will see it on the skyline - it has 27 floors. Nearby are a few local shops such as a small Waitrose and Tesco, and several small restaurants. You are close to the Victoria & Albert museum, Earl's Court exhibition centre and Kensington gardens; all of which are in walking distance.
You enter through big swing doors to a massive, airy lobby with a long check in desk down one side, and a bar and coffee shop on another, with plenty of seating.
The check in process was a disaster. You can supposedly check in at 2pm, I arrived at 4.15 and there were only two receptionists working on the lengthy front desk, both dealing with other guests. I waited patiently as a queue built up behind me. A lady from the Business Desk came and asked me to go with her. We trekked across the massive lobby and round the corner and she tried to check me in. It was a slow process as their system logged her out and we had to wait and then my room wasn't ready as it was still being cleaned, so they tried to get me another but as the hotel was full they did not have anywhere else to put me. After twenty minutes I managed to get checked in and headed back to the lobby where friends who had checked in before me were finishing cups of tea and wondering what had happened to me.
My twin room was on the 16th floor. Sadly we had a North facing room, but those with a South facing room got a lovely view out across London and various landmarks. The room is quite simply furnished - there is a built in wardrobe as you go in on your left - those awkward hangers that I can never get off/on properly There is also a dressing table/desk with flat screen TV. For me there were not enough power sockets: in this digital age, someone always needs to be charging their phone, plus I needed to use tongs before I went out, so it involved some juggling.
Each bed has two pillows (choice of soft or firm), a duvet, overhead light and bedside table. Windows are large and span the width of the room for natural light (should the sun have bothered to show up). Supplied bits and bobs include and iron and ironing boards, basic tea and coffee making facilities and an un-powerful hairdryer under the dressing table. There was space for a fridge but it was empty.
The bathroom is to the right as you come in and contained a sink, WC, and shower over a bath. One set of towels were in the room, the spare set were in the wardrobe. They also supplied face cloths which many places don't seem to do. Freebie toiletries include a bath/shower gel and shampoo as well as a little soap.
As I mentioned above I was here to attend a private function, which was held in the Lennon suite on the 1st floor. Our room held eleven tables of ten quite comfortably with a bar area, DJ and dance floor.
The bar area was quite compact, it wasn't a fixed bar, just some tables in the corner of the room, and upon arrival there were two men working behind it, I saw a friend leaving as there were only limited wines available and they were going to purchase a bottle from the downstairs bar. I ordered a rose wine for a friend (£20.35 per bottle) but the bartender had to go and fetch it, which was quite a wait. At this point I was not impressed with the waiting around I had done in this hotel. However he did let me have the glass of Rum Punch for free (usually £4.50) so I let him off on this occasion! Later in the evening there was just one person behind the bar and he was very efficient at remembering regular orders.
The meal was a set menu - I had the veggie option. For meat-eater they had a liver pate with a salad garnish to start. It seemed a generous portion and I didn't see much get left. My starter was a goats' cheese salad with olives, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber. It was tasty and also a good size, although if I were to be picky I would say there were too many chunky pieces of cucumber, but that is just my personal preference. For mains there was chicken with new potatoes, carrots and mange tout. There appeared to be a small amount of gravy with it but the consensus was this it was too dry. I had a mushroom risotto which, as far as I could tell, had the contents of no more than one mushroom in it. I left the final two-thirds of the plain risotto as it was a bit boring. The risotto was garnished with parmesan, which isn't vegetarian, so I moved that to one side. Dessert was more successful being a cheesecake with berry compote. The DJ was a private hire and not connected to the hotel, but the hotel rules state that all music must finish at midnight.
Outside the function suite was a cloakroom for those not staying at the hotel and lavatories. The Ladies' loos were clean and well stocked of all the necessary supplies. I think there were about 5 cubicles but I never had to wait, even thought they were supposedly busy. Either I timed it right each time or there were plenty of other lavatories on the same floor.
Breakfast is also served on the 1st floor and the room can be spotted from the lift. We gave the man our room number and we were seated. There is a large buffet area in the middle. One section was for cold items - Danish pastries, breads, cheese/meats, cereals, fruits salad, a range of juices etc. I had a couple of glasses of their fresh orange juice - nice and chilled, fresh yet not too bitty that it left a residue around the rim of the glass. There was also apple, cranberry and one other flavour of juice. I started with some fresh fruit - orange segments, pineapple, grapefruit and melon were all present and correct, with yoghurt if you wish. I finished off with a visit to the hot buffet where perfectly cooked fried eggs, hash browns, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, baked beans, sausages and bacon awaited you, all freshly cooked and hot. Although self-service it was attended by a chef who kept an eye on everything for you. There was also an omelette bar, cooking to order.
The hotel has a business centre, and various meeting rooms/conference facilities. There is wi-fi available in public areas, but my friend said it was expensive, so I didn't investigate further. There is a fitness centre here, I didn't visit it but I gather it contains gym equipment; there is no pool or sauna.
In the lobby, there is a bar and café area selling alcoholic drinks, teas/coffees etc as well as some snacks. I didn't dine in the restaurant, so I cannot comment on prices or standard of food (I would hope it was better than the function suite). After our function we went to the 'tavern' downstairs for drinks. It is a large room made to look like the inside of a pub. There isn't a great deal of atmosphere here and it shuts at 2am. I believe snacks can be purchased here, but I don't recall seeing any. A round including a glass of wine, a vodka and mixer plus a pint of lager came to just shy of £15.
There is parking onsite - although at £33 per day, you may wish to get the train!
Checking out time is a civilised 12 noon. As we exited the lift a member of staff took our electronic key cards and wished us a safe onward journey. Although I found I had to wait for service quite often at this hotel, all the staff were polite and apologetic, and no one was ever rude.
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